“Is that cooked from fresh or frozen?” I ask, anticipating the typical defensive response.
“Well…it was from frozen. Only because I had a meeting which went long and I didn’t have time to stop at the store,” responds a busy mother, father, worker, or student.
It’s time that we address a stigma which has had a long-standing impact on people’s dinner plates. Is the consumption of frozen fruits and vegetables something to be ashamed of? When I perform dietary recalls for
nutrition-related research studies, it is a common theme that people are embarrassed to admit when their vegetables came from the ice box.
I acknowledge that fresh fruits and vegetables are absolutely fantastic, but I don’t think frozen foods have to fall far behind.
Time is something that is constantly escaping us. When dinner time rolls around, not everyone has the luxury of being able to clean, chop, and cook fresh produce. If you are in a pinch, butternut squash is an easy go to. You can buy it already chopped and prepared, so you simply have to heat it up instead of nixing the vegetable option all together.
Rumor has it that frozen fruits and vegetables aren’t as nutritious as fresh produce. While this can sometimes be the case, it is important to consider seasonality and food miles. Frozen fruits and vegetables are harvested when perfectly ripe and then immediately flash frozen to preserve vitamins and minerals. In the frosty winter months, it might be more beneficial to shop in the frozen aisle than buy out-of- season products in the produce section.
Fruits and vegetables which are out of season can be shipped thousands of miles around the world to end up on your dinner plate, and all of that travel time does take a toll on the nutrient composition of the food.
One other benefit of eating frozen fruits and vegetables is that it allows you to get creative in the kitchen. With so many options available in the grocery store, it’s easy to incorporate new foods into your meal. You can throw some frozen kale into a breakfast shake, some frozen corn into a salsa, or some frozen spinach into an artichoke dip. The options are limitless, and make it easy for you to get your recommended servings in each day.
Frozen fruits and vegetables seem to have it all. They are easy to prepare, nutritious, full of variety, and easy on your wallet. Although we should aim to eat an abundance of fresh, local produce, it might not always be a possibility. On the nights when work runs late or you just don’t feel like cooking, don’t be afraid to reach into the freezer. When someone asks how you made the delicious beef pot pie or Asian stir fry, don’t ever be ashamed to admit the truth: it’s cooked from frozen.